Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra continued its presentation of all nine Beethoven symphonies on Friday night at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
This time it was the “Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21” and “Eroica,” aka the “Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 56." Approximately 800 patrons attended the concert.
Both symphonies are in four movements, but strikingly different in construction. “No. 1” follows the strict classical rules set down by Haydn and Mozart, while “No. 3” is of a later composition date and expresses a lot more emotion. It’s considered the first of the “romantic” symphonies.
"Symphony No. 1" was up first. A smaller-than-usual orchestra took the stage. Crisp strings marked conductor Ed Polochick’s baton, matching classical meters. Ensemble excellence was to echo throughout the symphony.
Again, the tempo met the mark in movement two, along with orchestral restraint that allowed the composition’s transparency to come through. Some recordings of this movement exhibit an increase in tempo as the movement progresses; not so for Polochick, who held the baton steady as a digital metronome, except for a few places where emotions within the score came into play.
Precise string playing in the third movement minuet progressed into the adagio-allegro finale. Here, the tempo changes in the first 16 bars are tricky, but the ensemble held on handsomely. The allegro stepped out with great ensemble unity in response to the changes in dynamics. The crowd offered strong applause and cheers at the work’s conclusion.
"Symphony No. 1" was a piece of symphonic cake, but in comparison, the “Eroica” would be a mountain railroad, full of ups and downs, sharp curves and speedy straightaways in its myriad mood changes.
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Polochick set a brisk tempo for the opening movement, challenging orchestra sections to keep precision in the syncopation. Practice paid off, as the off-beats were placed just where the conductor ordered them. Orchestra sections that were accompanying melody lines backed off the volume to achieve perfect balance.
The low strings had the job of being “glue” in the second movement. That “glue” set up fine to hold the orchestra firmly in place to elicit melodies and harmony. When it came time for the cellos to come unglued a bit and play some melody, the outcome was ravishing and especially warm near the movement’s end.
Keeping the fast triplets together was the orchestra’s job in movement three. Polochick held an unwavering baton over the group. It was precision in motion and Beethoven would have loved it.
Things were set for the finale, with hardly any hesitation between the two movements.
Some players appeared a bit weary toward the end of movement four, but there was no letup. A lovely flute solo appeared in the middle of the movement. Horns picked up the call and the work came to a splendid ending, with patrons instantly cheering and coming to their feet.
Polochick saluted the orchestra for its excellent rendering of the symphony, giving concertmaster Anton Miller a hug, then singling out horns, flute, oboe, tympani and finally the entire ensemble for kudos.